Silhouettes in Edward Scissorhands Tap into the Emotion Function of Chiaroscuro Lighting

Directed by, none other than, Tim Burton, Edward Scissorhands is a 1990s movie with a lot to offer. Though there are many breathtaking aesthetics in this film, I am going to focus on one scene that takes the cake of aesthetics.

The specific scene that I am alluding to is when you first meet Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp), in the attic of his mansion. The attic of the mansion itself has very high contrast falloff as well as very low key lighting ratios. Falloff is the brightness contrast between the light and shadow side of an object. The term also refers to the relative rate of change from light to dark (the rate at which it goes from light to shadow).

First, let me show you the sequence of shots I want to discuss:

This whole sequence of shots is very crucial to the lighting techniques used in Edward Scissorhands. In the very first shot, you have a silhouette of Edward coming out from the shadows. This is, by far, my favorite shot in the whole film. The art of silhouette lighting* is very interesting. Silhouette lighting is a form of chiaroscuro lighting. Chiaroscuro lighting is this type of low key, fast falloff lighting. Silhouette lighting only reveals a contour of a character or object within the shot.

As for the first picture, you see a man walking at you with, what looks like, knives and blades for hands. This creates a sense of horror in the viewer as well as the other characters within the scene. Picture two is also a great screen shot of Edward coming out of the shadows. Even though it isn’t a silhouette, the contrast between light and shadows is great enough to keep the sense of horror flowing through the viewers. However, once Edward continues out of the shadows (pictures 3 and 4), you can tell that he is just as frightened and harmless as we are.

Tim Burton’s use of the silhouette in this scene definitely taps in the emotional aspect of lighting. Lighting effects our feelings directly, regardless of the scene.

* This link shows you how to photograph a silhouette in a picture, as well as uses of silhouettes.

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2 Responses to Silhouettes in Edward Scissorhands Tap into the Emotion Function of Chiaroscuro Lighting

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